Battle of Olustee
Overview
 
The Battle of Olustee or Battle of Ocean Pond was fought in Baker County
Baker County, Florida
Baker County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 22,259. The U.S. Census Bureau 2008 estimate for the county is 26,164 . Its county seat is Macclenny, Florida. While primarily rural, the county is included in the Jacksonville Metropolitan Area.-...

, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 on 20 February 1864, during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. It was the largest battle fought in Florida during the war.
In February 1864, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, commander of the Union's Department of the South at Hilton Head
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island or Hilton Head is a resort town in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. It is north of Savannah, Georgia, and south of Charleston. The island gets its name from Captain William Hilton...

, South Carolina, ordered an expedition into Florida to secure Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 enclaves, sever Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 supply routes (especially for beef and salt), and recruit black soldiers.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Olustee or Battle of Ocean Pond was fought in Baker County
Baker County, Florida
Baker County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 22,259. The U.S. Census Bureau 2008 estimate for the county is 26,164 . Its county seat is Macclenny, Florida. While primarily rural, the county is included in the Jacksonville Metropolitan Area.-...

, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 on 20 February 1864, during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. It was the largest battle fought in Florida during the war.

Background

In February 1864, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, commander of the Union's Department of the South at Hilton Head
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island or Hilton Head is a resort town in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. It is north of Savannah, Georgia, and south of Charleston. The island gets its name from Captain William Hilton...

, South Carolina, ordered an expedition into Florida to secure Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 enclaves, sever Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 supply routes (especially for beef and salt), and recruit black soldiers. Brigadier General Truman Seymour
Truman Seymour
Truman Seymour was an a career soldier and an accomplished painter. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, rising to the rank of major general. He commanded the Union troops at the Battle of Olustee, the largest Civil War battle fought in Florida.-Early life and career:Seymour...

, in command of the expedition, landed troops at Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

, in an area already seized by the Union in March 1862. Seymour's forces then made several raids into northeast and north-central Florida. During these raids he met little resistance, seized several Confederate camps, captured small bands of troops and artillery pieces, liberated slaves, etc. However, Seymour was under orders from Gillmore not to advance deep into the state.

Seymour's preparations at Hilton Head had concerned the Confederate command in the key port city of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

, South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

. General P. G. T. Beauregard
P. G. T. Beauregard
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was a Louisiana-born American military officer, politician, inventor, writer, civil servant, and the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Today he is commonly referred to as P. G. T. Beauregard, but he rarely used...

, correctly guessing Seymour's objective was Florida, felt these Union actions posed enough of a threat for him to detach reinforcements under Georgian Alfred H. Colquitt
Alfred H. Colquitt
Alfred Holt Colquitt was a lawyer, preacher, soldier, 49th Governor of Georgia and two term U.S. Senator from Georgia where he died in office. He served as an officer in the Confederate army, reaching the rank of major general....

 to bolster Florida's defenses and stop Seymour. Colquitt arrived in time to reinforce Florida troops under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Finegan
Joseph Finegan
Joseph Finegan was an attorney, politician, and railroad builder in Florida, but is primarily known as the general who commanded the Confederate States Army in its victory at the Battle of Olustee....

. As Colquitt's troops began arriving, Seymour, without Gillmore's knowledge, began a new drive across north Florida with the capture of Tallahassee as a possible objective.

Battle

Following the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad
Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad
The Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad was a railroad company that, in 1860, completed a railroad line running from Jacksonville, Florida, west to Lake City, Florida...

, Seymour led his 5,500 men in the direction of Lake City. At approximately 2:30 in the afternoon of February 20, the Union force approached General Finegan's 5,000 Confederates entrenched near Olustee Station. Finegan sent out an infantry brigade to meet Seymour's advance units and lure them into the Confederate entrenchments, but this plan went awry. The opposing forces met at Ocean Pond and the battle began. Seymour made the mistake of assuming that he was once again facing Florida militia units that he had previously routed with ease and committed his troops piecemeal into the battle. Finegan and Seymour both reinforced their engaged units during the afternoon and the battle took place in open pine woods. The Union forces attacked but were savagely repulsed by withering barrages of rifle and cannon fire.

The battle raged throughout the afternoon until, as Finegan committed the last of his reserves, the Union line broke and began to retreat. Finegan did not exploit the retreat, allowing most of the fleeing Union forces to reach Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

. However, the Confederates did make a final attempt to engage the rear element of Seymour's forces just before nightfall, but they were repulsed by elements of the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that saw extensive service in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment was one of the first official black units in the United States during the Civil War...

 and the 35th United States Colored Troops
United States Colored Troops
The United States Colored Troops were regiments of the United States Army during the American Civil War that were composed of African American soldiers. First recruited in 1863, by the end of the Civil War, the men of the 175 regiments of the USCT constituted approximately one-tenth of the Union...

, both composed of African-American soldiers. The Confederate cavalry commander received criticism for failing to pursue the retreating Union forces.

Aftermath

Union casualties were 203 killed, 1,152 wounded, and 506 missing, a total of 1,861 men—almost 40%. Confederate losses were lower: 93 killed, 847 wounded, and 6 missing, a total of 946 casualties in all—but still about 20%. Additionally, Union forces allowed six artillery pieces and 39 horses to be captured as well. The ratio of Union casualties to the number of troops involved made this the third bloodiest battle of the War for the Union. Soldiers on both sides were veterans of the great battles in the eastern and western theaters of war, but many of them remarked in letters and diaries that they had never experienced such terrible fighting. Following the battle, men of the 54th Massachusetts manually pulled a train of wounded Union soldiers for five miles, until horses could be secured to transport them further. This story of bravery and sheer strength became widely known over the whole United States.

The Union losses caused Northern authorities to question the necessity of further Union involvement in the militarily insignificant state of Florida. There is also considerable evidence from Confederate memoirs and letters that the high Union casualties were partially the result of Confederate troops murdering wounded and captured African-American Union soldiers.

In the South, the battle was seen as a spirit-raising rout. One Georgia newspaper referred to Union forces as walking "forty miles over the most barren land of the South, frightening the salamanders and the gophers, and getting a terrible thrashing…"

Today, the battlefield is contained within the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park is a Florida State Park in the Osceola National Forest, near the town of Olustee. The site of Florida's largest Civil War battle, the park is located west of Jacksonville and east of Lake City, on U.S. 90...

, a part of the Florida State Park system. This park is located within the Osceola National Forest
Osceola National Forest
Osceola National Forest is an American National Forest located in Florida.Osceola National Forest was created by President Herbert Hoover's proclamation, on July 10, 1931...

, on U.S. 90
U.S. Route 90
U.S. Route 90 is an east–west United States highway. Despite the "0" in its route number, U.S. 90 never was a full coast-to-coast route; it has always ended at Van Horn, Texas. A short-lived northward extension to U.S...

.

There is an annual historical reenactment
Historical reenactment
Historical reenactment is an educational activity in which participants attempt torecreate some aspects of a historical event or period. This may be as narrow as a specific moment from a battle, such as the reenactment of Pickett's Charge at the Great Reunion of 1913, or as broad as an entire...

 that takes place on the site of the battle and nearby Lake City
Lake City, Florida
Lake City is the county seat of Columbia County, Florida, in the United States. In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population at 12,614. In addition, it is the Principal City of the Lake City Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is composed of Columbia County, and had an...

 has hosted the yearly Olustee Battle Festival since 1976.

On one weekend every February (see Footnotes), thousands of reenactors from across the U.S. and even from overseas, come to the Park to reenact
Historical reenactment
Historical reenactment is an educational activity in which participants attempt torecreate some aspects of a historical event or period. This may be as narrow as a specific moment from a battle, such as the reenactment of Pickett's Charge at the Great Reunion of 1913, or as broad as an entire...

 the Battle of Olustee. Reenactors begin arriving as early as Thursday to set up. Friday is "School Day" as thousands of students arrive to spend the day watching demonstrations and listening to living historians discuss various aspects of the war and life in the United States during the 1860s. The public is invited to attend the reenactment on Saturday and Sunday, visit the camps, view demonstrations, interact with living historians, shop at numerous sutler tents for Civil War merchandise, and attend the battle on each day. A large selection of modern day food is available from Friday through Sunday inside the park.

Battle lithograph

The lithograph in the upper right was printed by the firm of Kurz and Allison in 1894. It depicts soldiers of the 8th U.S. Colored Troops advancing against Confederate entrenchments. While frequently used in media about the Battle of Olustee, it is inaccurate as the artist knew little about the battle. The Confederates troops during the battle were well in advance of their prepared positions, and neither side fought from behind fortifications, as the battle took place in a pine forest (see map - top of map is approximately due West). Plus, there were very few large cleared areas (as also shown incorrectly in the lithograph). The annual reenactment begins in a pine forest so that reenactors can experience fighting as the soldiers did in 1864. However, the fighting then moves into a large cleared area so that spectators also can view the battle.

See also

  • Olustee Union order of battle
    Olustee Union order of battle
    The following Union Army units and commanders fought in the Battle of Olustee of the American Civil War. The Confederate order of battle is listed separately.-Military Rank Abbreviations Used:* BG = Brigadier General* Col = Colonel...

  • Olustee Confederate order of battle
    Olustee Confederate order of battle
    The following Confederate States Army units and commanders fought in the Battle of Olustee of the American Civil War. The Union order of battle is listed separately.-Military Rank Abbreviations Used:* BG = Brigadier General* Col = Colonel...

  • Florida in the American Civil War
  • List of conflicts in the United States

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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